How to Motivate Your Kids to Be Active

Step away from the screens and get outdoors as a family. If this sounds easier said than done, here's an easy guide to clock in more activity minutes.

Dad and Child Running On Beach Family Watching Jason Lindsey

One of the main reasons kids aren't getting enough physical activity is simply because much of their time is spent in front of screens. Motivating your little ones to be active can be a challenge but luckily we've rounded up a few simple ways you can keep your family moving without adding more stress to your life.

Lead by Example

Philippa Gordon, M.D., a pediatrician from Brooklyn, believes that if parents spend a significant amount of time on their phones or computers then their children will likely take after those habits.

"The important thing isn't what the parents say, it's what they do," says Dr. Gordon. When you don't do what you're telling your kids to do it causes confusion and can create a lack of trust.

"It's important for parents to model good exercise habits for their children so they think it's a natural part of life, not a chore," adds Robyn Brown, a psychotherapist and mother of two from Brooklyn. Her daily routine always includes something active, such as walking to the park or planning exercise play dates so it feels fun and special. 

Finding 20 minutes here and there to step away from screens and get moving will eventually add up and create a healthier lifestyle. If you have to run errands, Brown suggests walking to the store as a family, if that's possible. Have your kids ride scooters or walk rather than sitting in a stroller the entire way. Even though the task might take more time out of your day, the long-term benefits will outweigh the initial hassle.

Limit Screen Time

Kids ages eight and under average two hours and 19 minutes a day looking at a screen, according to research from Common Sense Media. They also found that mobile exposure has risen from 15 minutes in 2013 to 48 minutes a day in 2017. These numbers might not shock you if you have television or video game-obsessed kids, but it's important to be aware of how much time both you and your child spend on your devices.

Instead of watching TV after dinner on a weekend night, head to a local bowling alley. "When you spend time together as a family, it increases your serotonin and endorphin levels, puts you in a better mood, helps you sleep better, and allows for better brain function," says Allie Steele, a personal trainer and mother of three from Los Angeles. She believes that family success is achieved by setting aside a specific time each day to exercise with your kids.

Relationships are built when you spend time together and kids thrive when they're given the chance to release some energy.

Create a Point System for Activities

If it's difficult to convince your kids to get moving, try making it seem more like a game rather than a requirement. You can inspire your little ones by tracking their physical activity on a sticker chart whenever they reach a daily goal. Rewarding them with small prizes or allowing them to earn coins are other ways you can increase their willingness to participate.

Steele suggests finding time for a minimum of an hour of physical activity each day for kids three and older. To make meeting this requirement less tedious, she recommends breaking it up during different times of the day.

Keep Exercise Fun for All

Instead of sticking to one activity, like playing soccer or tennis each week, try something new with your kids. Visit the batting cages, go ice-skating, or play Frisbee at the park.

If your kids don't love being outside, then it's important to find ways to incorporate exercise indoor. Set up an obstacle course in your living room or organize a scavenger hunt throughout the house. Remember: If you're excited about an activity then your kids will be more interested in joining.

Steele gets her three kids moving using a classic deck of cards. Each face card represents a different type of exercise and the number cards represent how many times you do it. For example, a four of hearts could mean four jumping jacks while an eight of spades calls for eight lunges. The anticipation of what the next card will be will get kids excited and eager to stay active for longer.

Coming up with different ways to keep your family healthy shouldn't be a daunting task but rather an exciting opportunity to bond. Challenge your family to step away from technology and put more emphasis on being together. You'll have fun, and stay healthy.